Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize Winners, & Melania Trump: The EB-1 Visa

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This paper is part of ProfVal's EB-Visa Series

(Part 1 of 2 in the EB-1 and EB-2 NIW categories)

A bipartisan congress supported the “Immigration Act of 1990” (S.358), introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. Part of the goal of this act was to promote U.S. exceptionalism by promoting “the immigration of exceptionally talented people.”[1] You can read about the history and rationale behind this decision by reading our white paper on the topic here.

The words “extraordinary” and “exceptional” are key terms related to the EB-1 and EB-2 Employment-Based Immigration visa categories.

Persons with extraordinary abilities and, in certain circumstances, those with exceptional abilities can self-sponsor* a petition for U.S. permanent residency to the U.S. based on their high-level abilities and their contributions to the U.S. in the area(s) of their abilities. Self-sponsoring means that the individual does not require the support or approval of an employer.

*Please note that while it is possible to complete a Legal Permanent Residency (LPR) application on your own, ProfVal strongly recommends working with a qualified immigration attorney. Although no one on our team is an immigration attorney and we cannot offer legal advice, we can refer you to independent, third-party immigration law firms.

EB-1: Persons of Extraordinary Ability

There are three types of EB-1 visas: extraordinary ability EB-1(a), outstanding professors and researchers EB-1(b), and multinational executives and managers EB-1(c). While each of these categories can lead to permanent residency, only the EB-1(a) for persons of extraordinary ability is self-sponsored.[2]

To be classified as a person of extraordinary ability, the petitioner must provide evidence for achievements in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. One way of doing this is by providing proof of a single major internationally recognized award such as an Olympic medal, a Nobel Peace Prize, or Pulitzer Prize. Awards like scholarships, fellowships, research grants, or those won in college sporting events would not fit this criterion.[3]

Another way of establishing extraordinary ability is to provide evidence of meeting three of ten criteria that the USCIS lists related to this classification. Among other things, the criteria include: internationally or nationally-recognized prizes; membership in exclusive organizations that require significant achievements for membership; authorship of significant publications; evidence of a high salary; or evidence of major contributions within your field. Often, this evidence will be accompanied by an Expert Opinion Letter from ProfVal written by an expert within your field who provides an interpretation of your accomplishments according to USCIS criteria.

To better understand how an individual might establish extraordinary ability, consider how multiple criteria might be evaluated for a professor or researcher.

She likely earned a Ph.D. in a business, science, education, or another discipline. Alone, her degree would be insufficient to qualify her for an EB-1, but if she also had been employed at a top institution, had a dozen publications in some of the world’s most prestigious peer-reviewed journals, was highly compensated within her field, and/or had been recognized within her industry, she may qualify as a person of extraordinary ability.

Separately, a respected doctor, a successful entrepreneur, an Olympic medalist, Pulitzer prize winner, Nobel Prize winner, or even a famous model might be granted a visa for extraordinary ability based on the criteria provided by the USCIS.[4] As an example, Melania Trump (wife of President Donald Trump) was classified as a person of extraordinary ability based on – among other things – her international recognition as a model.

Please keep in mind that EB-1 petitions have a high denial rate, so it is important to work with a competent immigration attorney to oversee your case.

Neither ProfVal nor this paper provides legal advice. If you would like us to suggest a lawyer to work with, ProfVal would be happy to refer you to an immigration attorney that we respect.

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ProfVal, LLC (profval.com) is a purpose-driven, professor-founded, and ethically-grounded provider of Expert Opinion Letters that can be used to support employment-based visas (H-1B, L1, EB, O). ProfVal is dedicated to helping clients through services built based on an architecture of research. ProfVal is dedicated to helping our communities through our giving site, profval.org.


[1] https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/statement-signing-the-immigration-act-1990 [2] If you are a person of extraordinary ability, but have a job offer you may want to consider the O-1 which is a three-year visa for persons of extraordinary ability. [3] https://millermayer.com/2018/recent-trends-in-eb-1-extraordinary-ability-and-outstanding-professor-researcher-green-card-petitions/ [4] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-visa-extraordinary/u-s-genius-visa-attracts-entrepreneurs-and-playmates-idUSBRE85S09A20120629

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